Sensitivity of Tropical Cyclone Intensity to Sea Surface Temperature

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  • 1 Water and Climate Program, CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research, Mordialloc, Victoria, Australia
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Abstract

Increased occurrence of more intense tropical storms intruding further poleward has been foreshadowed as one of the potential consequences of global warming. This scenario is based almost entirely on the general circulation model predictions of warmer sea surface temperature (SST) with increasing levels of atmospheric C02 and some theories of tropical cyclone intensification that support the notion of more intense systems with warmer SST. Whether storms are able to achieve this theoretically determined more intense state depends on whether the temperature of the underlying water is the dominant factor in tropical cyclone intensification. An examination of the historical data record in a number of ocean basins is used to identify the relative importance of SST in the tropical cyclone intensification process. The results reveal that SST alone is an inadequate predictor of tropical cyclone intensity. Other factors known to affect tropical cyclone frequency and intensity are discussed.

Abstract

Increased occurrence of more intense tropical storms intruding further poleward has been foreshadowed as one of the potential consequences of global warming. This scenario is based almost entirely on the general circulation model predictions of warmer sea surface temperature (SST) with increasing levels of atmospheric C02 and some theories of tropical cyclone intensification that support the notion of more intense systems with warmer SST. Whether storms are able to achieve this theoretically determined more intense state depends on whether the temperature of the underlying water is the dominant factor in tropical cyclone intensification. An examination of the historical data record in a number of ocean basins is used to identify the relative importance of SST in the tropical cyclone intensification process. The results reveal that SST alone is an inadequate predictor of tropical cyclone intensity. Other factors known to affect tropical cyclone frequency and intensity are discussed.

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